Building society aims to keep people in their homes

The West Bromwich Building Society is to step up efforts to support first-time buyers to get on the housing ladder.

Chief executive Jonathan Westhoff
Chief executive Jonathan Westhoff

In its last financial year 54 per cent of mortgage loans were to first-time buyers – up from 48 per cent in 2020-2021.

The society's focus on lending is shifting and the West Brom aims to meet the huge societal challenge that young people are facing.

"The big challenge for the UK is to get people into homes as they become more expensive," explained chief executive Jonathan Westhoff, who said the 173-year-old building society was focused on increasing further the number of first-time buyers it supported.

Mr Westhoff also fears that the growing cost-of-living crisis will have an impact on both first-time buyers and those already paying mortgages.

He said there had been a welcome start from the Government to help people, but said it was difficult to imagine that some people would still end up in a stressful financial situation.

"We will be focused on supporting our customers who face temporary challenges.

"There will be times when there is pressure on affordability, but we will make sure those in that position are not charged more.

"We want to make it as safe a journey through troubled times as we can," he explained.

The West Brom, which has 34 branches in the Black Country, Birmingham, Shropshire and Wales, is urging its members who do find themeselves facing difficulties to come in and talk.

"They should contact us and we will see what we can do to help them. We are here to keep people in their homes," added Mr Westhoff.

The Government's mortgage guarantee scheme, which has helped people get on the housing ladder with as little as a five per cent deposit, comes to an end later this year which could add to some people's problems.

Mr Westhoff said that total mortgage lending by the society was down from £784 million to £756m in 2021-2022 but volume of new loans was not seen as a key measure.

"The definition of success for us is living up to our mutual principles," he stressed.

He said the West Brom had been in the minority position of passing on interest rate increases and was now paying three times the market average to its savers.

The rise had not been passed on in full to borrowers with only a quarter of the Bank rate increases applied.

The combined benefit to members amounted to £9.2 million.

The society is in a strong position in 2022 with a capital ratio of 17 per cent, which has steadily improved over recent years.

It is also committed to helping mortgage prisoners who are paying higher rates than they need to.

Mr Westhoff said the West Brim was also looking to grow its involvement in shared ownership which helped people get on to the property ladder when they could not afford the entire home costs themselves.

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